Topic: Groundwater

Overview

Groundwater

Unlike California’s majestic rivers and massive dams and conveyance systems, groundwater is out of sight and underground, though no less plentiful. The state’s enormous cache of underground water is a great natural resource and has contributed to the state becoming the nation’s top agricultural producer and leader in high-tech industries.

Groundwater is also increasingly relied upon by growing cities and thirsty farms, and it plays an important role in the future sustainability of California’s overall water supply. In an average year, roughly 40 percent of California’s water supply comes from groundwater.

A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

County Corner: Our answers on groundwater leave more questions

In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order outlining the temporary strategies for California to manage the ongoing drought. Within this order, he outlined rules for counties, cities and other public agencies as it relates to new wells or alterations to an existing well. One rule requires farmers and ranchers to get written verification from their local groundwater sustainability agency that the new well or alterations “would not be inconsistent with any sustainable groundwater management program” for the area. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

State funding to retire valley farmland could more than double under Gov. Newsom’s proposed budget

A state program aimed at retiring and repurposing farmland could get $60 million – more than doubling its current funding – under Gov. Newsom’s proposed budget. The Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program was created with $50 million from the 2021 state budget. The program helps pay for farmland to be taken out of production and repurposed to less water intensive uses. Farmers in the San Joaquin Valley have pumped groundwater for crops without limits for generations. But groundwater levels are plummeting …

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Aquafornia news KNAU Arizona Public Radio

Failing septic systems on Navajo Nation an increasing concern

Navajo Nation leaders say failing septic and solid waste systems are becoming an increasing concern in many areas of the reservation. One tribal lawmaker has gathered nearly 170 accounts from residents of Blue Gap, Many Farms and other chapters about deficient sanitation facilities in homes. Officials say it’s a serious environmental contamination issue that threatens land and water and creates significant health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aquafornia news Orange County Water District

News release: The first of four PFAS treatment facilities in Garden Grove begins operation

The Orange County Water District and the City of Garden Grove began operating one of four treatment plants being constructed in Garden Grove to remove per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from local well water. PFAS are a group of thousands of manmade, heat-resistant chemicals that are prevalent in the environment and are commonly used in consumer products to repel water, grease and oil. Due to their prolonged use, PFAS are being detected in water sources throughout the United States, including the Orange County Groundwater Basin, which supplies 77% of the water supply to 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County. 

Aquafornia news American Rivers

Blog: The reservoirs under our feet

When you picture water storage, a water tower on slanted stilts imposed upon a blue sky or a concrete reservoir piping water to the city might come to mind. The issue of water storage has become a high priority as regions such as California experience severe multi-year drought and are impacted by overextraction from aquifers. … The most climate resilient and long-term strategies to address water shortage lie at our feet, in the meadows that anchor our rivers headwaters and floodplains that extend across the broad lower river valleys.

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Aquafornia news Downey Brand LLP - JDSupra

Blog: Full quantification of water rights not required for CEQA review, Second District declares

On March 22, 2022, the Second District Court of Appeal published its Opinion in Buena Vista Water Storage District v. Kern Water Bank Authority, upholding the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Kern Water Bank Authority’s Conservation and Storage Project (“Project”) and reversing the trial court’s ruling. The Project proposes to divert up to 500,000 acre-feet-per-year (AFY) from the Kern River for recharge, storage, and later recovery within the Kern Water Bank.

Aquafornia news Entrepreneur

Opinion: Farmers don’t have enough water. Can AI help?

For the fourth time in 10 years, farmers I know in California are facing a harsh reality — they won’t see a drop of water from federal government reserves to supplement the little bit they’ll get from Mother Nature. … Precision agriculture — the use of technology like networked sensors and artificial intelligence — is helping farmers get by without the water they once had. The efficiencies are real, and the impact is tangible. I’ve seen up close how precision agriculture is making a difference for farms facing extreme drought.
-Written by Michael Gilbert, CEO of Semios, helping farmers use data to optimize every acre.

Aquafornia news CA Water Commission

Report: Water Commission’s white paper on groundwater trading programs emphasizes safeguards for vulnerable water users

The California Water Commission approved a white paper that contains its findings and the potential next steps for State engagement in shaping well-managed groundwater trading programs with appropriate safeguards for vulnerable water users: natural resources, small- and medium-size farms, and water supply and quality for disadvantaged communities. The white paper will be shared with the Secretaries for Natural Resources, Environmental Protection, and Food and Agriculture, who requested the Commission’s engagement on this topic.

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Aquafornia news Steamboat Pilot & Today

Writers on the Range: A water-stressed valley needs to curb development

In my drought- and fire-plagued home valley, 40 miles north of San Francisco, a debate has been simmering for decades over a massive development planned on state-owned property. The conflict is focused on nearly 1,000 acres of rural and wildland in Sonoma Valley. The prime wine-country property has been eyed for development since long before 2018 … Water, especially, is in short supply. The valley’s 44,000-acre groundwater basin and recycled water provide only half of the community’s water. Piped-in supplies make up the other half, shipped from increasingly drought-stressed river basins farther north.

Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Methane leaks near Bakersfield homes renew concerns about idle oil wells

Environmentalists advocating new state restrictions on oil and gas drilling have seized upon confirmation last week that two idle wells were leaking methane near a residential area in northeast Bakersfield decades after they were improperly abandoned. Details remained sketchy Monday, including how much gas the wells were emitting and for how long. … Late last month, California officials outlined plans for doing more to cap the state’s orphan oil and gas wells using $25 million in federal money they said will help them prioritize work in populated areas most vulnerable to methane leaks and groundwater contamination.

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Aquafornia news Press Democrat

More severe droughts are looming. Could Santa Rosa’s pioneering water recycling program help stave off disaster?

Homes and businesses across central Sonoma County generated more than 5 billion gallons of wastewater last year, enough to fill more than 7,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. That sewage flowed into Santa Rosa’s regional treatment plant south of Sebastopol, where it was cleaned up and nearly all of it put to a second use. About 4 billion gallons of recycled water was pumped north from the Llano Road treatment plant in a 41-mile pipeline and up a steep slope into The Geysers geothermal fields southeast of Cloverdale. 

Aquafornia news Porterville Recorder

State, county may take water from City of Porterville

City of Porterville Manager John Lollis … announced at Tuesday’s Porterville City Council meeting the County and State may exercise its right to take 3 million gallons of water a month at no charge from a city well as part of the arrangement the city, county and state reached to supply East Porterville with water after the 2015 drought. … Lollis noted the state still hasn’t fulfilled its portion of the agreement which called for the development of three wells for the City of Porterville as part of the East Porterville project.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Blog: Drought, groundwater restrictions and – oh yeah, drought – pervade talk at annual Kern water summit

Local and state water leaders were practically upbeat two years ago at the last in-person Water Summit put on by the Water Association of Kern County. At least as upbeat as California water folks typically get. They advocated for new ideas, radical partnerships and solutions that could benefit both ag and environmental interests. That was then. Facing a third year of punishing drought and the bleak realities of new groundwater restrictions, the vibe at this year’s summit was more “in the bunker” than “in it together.”

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Aquafornia news Valley Voice

Water contamination in Exeter critical but fixable

Last week, an official and dire-sounding warning about high nitrate levels in the city of Exeter’s water supply began appearing on social media sites, and with them came comments rife with speculation, fearful reactions and visions of impending doom. The water situation in the midsize foothill town, however, is not as dangerous or widespread as some of those who stumble across the notice without context imagine it is. … The reality, says Exeter’s Director of Public Works Daymon Qualls, is Exeter’s water remains safe for most consumers. It should not be consumed by infants and pregnant women until the nitrate levels drop, probably in the autumn when the dry season ends. 

Aquafornia news ABC7 San Francisco

California drought: How CA coastal communities are working to conserve, combat saltwater intrusion

For Executive Pastor Mark Spurlock, expanding classroom space at the Twin Lakes Christian School in Aptos has been addition by subtraction. At least when it comes to saving water. Following development offset rules outlined by the Soquel Creek Water District, the school engineered water-saving solutions to offset the new space they were building including replacing lawn areas with a drought-friendly plaza that catches and diverts water routed from nearby rooftops. … To better understand seawater intrusion, Duncan says the layman can think of the Santa Cruz area’s aquifer as a giant bathtub with mountain watershed on one side, and ocean on the other.

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Petitions submitted for new groundwater management district

A proposal apparently headed to the November ballot would have voters in rural southeastern Arizona decide whether to create a new regulatory district to manage large-scale groundwater use for agriculture in an area where aquifer levels have dropped in recent years. A grassroots group collected sufficient voter signatures on petitions required under state law for a ballot measure on creation of an active management area in the Willcox basin in Cochise and Graham counties, myheraldreview.com reported. The management area would be Arizona’s first created through a petition drive. 

Aquafornia news NBC Bay Area

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California’s snowpack, groundwater keep dropping

New numbers continue to show California Sierra snowpack is dropping along with the state’s groundwater but why is that important? Check out this image below and you’ll see all of the ways we use snowpack. That Spring snowmelt not only fills our streams, reservoirs and lakes, we also use it for agriculture, household, ecology and hydropower. In total providing one-third of the state’s water supply. The problem lately, we just can’t get enough storms to keep the snowpack at normal levels. This year only finished at 42% of normal.

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Aquafornia news CBS 8-San Diego

San Diego files lawsuit over toxic PFAS chemicals in water

The City of San Diego is suing more than 20 companies over decades-long water contamination from toxic chemical called PFAS. The lawsuit claims manufacturers like 3M, DuPont, and Raytheon made firefighting foam that contained PFAS and alleges the companies concealed “knowledge about the grave environmental and human health dangers of these compounds.”

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Accusations continue to fly between two valley ag titans in water feud

The ongoing water feud between two of Kings County’s biggest farming entities recently spilled into Kern County and up to Sacramento with allegations on both sides of misuse of water and other public resources. In a May 12 letter, the Southwest Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency complains that the J.G. Boswell Company has been pumping and storing massive amounts of groundwater for irrigation in a shallow basin, subjecting it to extreme evaporation and contributing to the area’s already significant subsidence problems.

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications

California is spending big on repurposing—not saving—farmland, argue critics

California lawmakers and the governor are hashing out the final details for investing billions of state dollars into a drought relief plan with long-term water investments and some benefits to farmers.

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Aquafornia news Water Technology

Researchers design process to extract ammonia and fertilizer from industrial wastewater

A dash of ruthenium atoms on a mesh of copper nanowires could be one step toward a revolution in the global ammonia industry that also helps the environment. Collaborators at Rice University’s George R. Brown School of Engineering, Arizona State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory developed the high-performance catalyst that can, with near 100% efficiency, pull ammonia and solid ammonia — aka fertilizer — from low levels of nitrates that are widespread in industrial wastewater and polluted groundwater.

Aquafornia news Victorville Daily Press

Drought in California: Water table in Mojave basin hits record low

The Mojave Water Agency began delivering imported water last week to a storage aquifer near Barstow, bringing welcome relief to the water table there that has hit a record low. The MWA Board of Directors unanimously approved the delivery of 5,000-acre-feet of water to the Centro Basin during its April 28 board meeting. The Centro Basin is one of five subareas or sub-basins, which are defined and separated in part by earthquake faults and other geological features but also are interconnected to some extent, water engineers say.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Alarming research on pesticide warrants curbs on its use

Even if you’ve never heard of imidacloprid, there’s a good chance the world’s most-used neonicotinoid pesticide is lurking somewhere in your home. Or on your dog. Or maybe even in your groundwater or drinking-water supplies. This insecticide, widely used for decades on fruits, vegetables and many other crops, has triggered growing concerns over its well-documented role in the dramatic declines of birds, bees, butterflies and other insects across the globe. … With imidacloprid being discovered in groundwater and drinking-water supplies across the state, state regulators — and legislators — finally are paying closer attention …
-Written by Jonathan Evans, legal director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program.

Aquafornia news Foothills Sun-Gazette

Tooleville water connection project expected to take eight years to complete

The process of connecting Tooleville’s water system to Exeter’s, which would relieve the small community of longtime water supply and contamination issues, is expected to take eight years.  Information from the feasibility study needed to start planning the project has been unfolding bit by bit, mainly through biweekly meetings held between Exeter city officials, representatives from Tooleville, staff from Self Help Enterprises and Provost and Pritchard, the consultants in charge of the study.  

Aquafornia news Ventura County Star

Opinion: Clean drinking water should be a right, but now we must fight for it

As a young person growing up in Ventura County for the past 19 years, I am no stranger to droughts. Not watering the lawn and taking shorter showers is simply a part of life in Southern California. Although water is scarce in Ventura County, there is currently a direct threat to our drinking water. Unfortunately, the oil industry wants to profit at the expense of our precious groundwater that supplies drinking water to over 400,000 Ventura County residents and irrigation water to our $2 billion agriculture economy.
-Written by Alex Masci, an undergraduate in environmental studies at UC Berkeley, a coordinator with CA Youth Vs Big Oil, and a supporter of VC-SAFE. 

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette

Proposed law makes new well permitting process permanent

New legislation introduced in the State Assembly aims to make the Governor’s March 28 order on new water well permits permanent. Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-Ventura) and representatives from Visalia-based Community Water Center (CWC) introduced Assembly Bill 2201 on March 31 requiring local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to evaluate new well drilling permits to ensure those wells will not negatively affect domestic wells nearby before the permits can be approved by county government. The law would codify Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order, which is temporary.

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Aquafornia news Press Telegram

Long Beach injection well designed to increase groundwater supply

Construction recently began on a well designed to inject water back into the groundwater basin beneath Long Beach. The groundbreaking last week took place at the Water Replenishment District’s advanced water treatment facility, on the southeastern border of Long Beach, next to the San Gabriel River. The plant further treats sewer effluent from the Los Angeles County Sanitation District to create purified recycled water. Recycled water already is used for irrigation and in other wells to form a barrier against salt water so it won’t get into the ground water basin.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Join online groundwater short course starting today (May 12 )

An online short course starting Thursday will provide registrants the opportunity to learn more about how groundwater is monitored, assessed and sustainably managed. The class, offered by University of California, Davis and several other organizations in cooperation with the Water Education Foundation, will be held May 12, 19, 26 and June 2, 16 from 9 a.m. to noon. If you attended the Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop in April, you get a discount on registration! at $60!

Announcement

Join Online Groundwater Short Course Starting May 12
Check out our monthly events calendar for details on this course and other water events in California

Photo of groundwater gushing into a percolation basin An online short course starting Thursday will provide registrants the opportunity to learn more about how groundwater is monitored, assessed and sustainably managed.

The class, offered by University of California, Davis and several other organizations in cooperation with the Water Education Foundation, will be held May 12, 19, 26 and June 2, 16 from 9 a.m. to noon.

Aquafornia news WaterWorld

Calif. district breaks ground on drought resiliency project

The Water Replenishment District (WRD) of Southern California celebrated the groundbreaking of its Inland Injection Well Project at the WRD Leo J. Vander Lans Advanced Water Treatment Facility in the City of Long Beach. When the WRD Inland Injection Well Project is complete, it will yield up to 2 million gallons of purified recycled water per day from the WRD Leo J. Vander Lans Advanced Water Treatment Facility (LVL AWTF) and inject it into the groundwater aquifers for storage and future use.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Maximizing benefits of solar development in the San Joaquin Valley

The implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) over the next two decades may require taking at least 500,000 acres of cropland in the San Joaquin Valley out of irrigated production (about 10%). To soften the blow on jobs and economic activity, it will be important to identify alternative land uses that generate income. Solar development is one of the most promising options.

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

Allensworth groundwater storage project receives funding from DWR

 A plan has been put in place to help replenish groundwater supplies in Allensworth, a community historically affected by water supply issues. Led by the Tri-County Water Authority, the Allensworth Project is a multi-component plan aimed at replenishing groundwater supplies and mitigating emergency flood water damage by constructing two gravity-fed basins to catch flood runoff from the White River. The basins will divert water from the river for direct use and recharge, and will be used as a recreational park during dry seasons.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Water districts bail on Kern’s largest groundwater agency; form their own group

Fractures have appeared within Kern County’s largest groundwater agency as pressure mounts for it to show the state how it plans to address the region’s massive groundwater deficit. Four water entities recently notified the Kern Groundwater Authority they were pulling out of the 16-member group to write their own groundwater sustainability plan. That will add a sixth plan covering the Kern subbasin, which extends across the San Joaquin Valley portion of the county.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

New bill aims to limit frenzy of California well drilling

In farming areas across the Central Valley, a well-drilling frenzy has accelerated over the last year as growers turn to pumping more groundwater during the drought, even as falling water levels leave hundreds of nearby homes with dry wells. Counties have continued freely issuing well-drilling permits in the years since California passed a landmark law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 … Some state legislators are now supporting a bill that they say would strengthen oversight and limit the well-drilling frenzy by requiring a review of permits for new wells by the same local agencies that are charged with managing groundwater.

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Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

Groundwater law’s sinking of ag economy may have been overstated

As the deadline for local agencies to implement plans to reduce groundwater use approaches, a new study finds California’s landmark legislation may have less of an impact on the local agriculture economy than originally predicted. A study authored by Professor Michael McCullough on the effect of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in the Tule Sub Basin in the Central Valley … says by 2040, the deadline for local agencies to reach groundwater sustainability, the 2014 law will likely result in the loss of some crops, but probably not the more valuable ones, such as fruit and nuts…

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Aquafornia news Paso Robles Daily News

Land Conservancy completes conservation project near Lake Nacimiento

On Dec. 21, 2021, The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County completed three contiguous conservation easements on the Attiyeh Ranch near Lake Nacimiento. The easements permanently protect a whopping 7,682 acres of oak woodland, annual grasslands, and chaparral, as well as significant freshwater resources and wildlife habitat.

Aquafornia news Long Beach Post News

Water Commission votes to cut rates to align with court ruling

Long Beach Water Department customers will be seeing a small decrease in their monthly bills after the city’s water commission voted Wednesday to lower rates after the city’s legal defeat over transferring excess revenue from the department into its general fund. The 2.54% decrease will result in a savings of about $2 per month for most residential customers for the rest of the fiscal year that ends in September. Lauren Gold, the department’s public information officer, said the reduction will result in a loss of about $3 million for the department.

Aquafornia news Capital Press

California dairy farmers concerned over water scarcity

In the midst of a years-long drought, California is implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, creating even more concerns for the state’s dairy farmers. … The biggest impact for dairies may be not so much on the dairy facility but on the feed side. Without adequate water or certainty of water, the question is where the feed will come from. The implementation of SGMA is going to impact local forages, hay, silages and wheat …

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

State funding helps pay for valley groundwater projects

Multiple San Joaquin Valley groundwater projects got a significant shot of state funding this week to kickstart recharge, and other, projects. On Monday, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced $150 million was awarded to 20 agencies through its first round of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program. That includes almost $84 million for 11 agencies in the San Joaquin Valley.

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Aquafornia news WaterWorld

Calif. awards $150M for groundwater management

In an effort to boost water supply reliability for millions of Californians, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has announced its first round of funding to 20 agencies responsible for managing critically overdrafted groundwater basins throughout the state. A total of $150 million in funding is being awarded to regional groundwater agencies through the Sustainable Groundwater Management (SGM) Grant Program. The funding will go toward projects focused on water efficiency, groundwater recharge, feasibility studies for alternative water supplies, and the installation of monitoring wells.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: Valley could see a “mass migration” of farmworkers as land is fallowed under state groundwater law

Advocates are sounding the alarm for what they think could be the collapse of the San Joaquin Valley’s agriculture workforce. As drought continues to hammer the state and groundwater pumping restrictions take effect, farmland will need to be retired en masse. While there have been many conversations, including legislation, on how to support farmers during intermittent droughts, advocates say there has been little to no planning for what will happen to the nearly 167,000 farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley when swaths of farmland are permanently fallowed.

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Aquafornia news High Country News

Siskiyou County’s sheriff is suddenly interested in policing ‘environmental crimes‘ (The rise of the nature cop)

Last summer, Siskiyou County’s recently appointed sheriff, Jeremiah LaRue, released a video on YouTube to explain two controversial new county groundwater laws. The drought was severe that year, he said, and the “wasteful extraction” of water for illegal cannabis cultivation was making it worse. … The environmentalist rhetoric and talk of water policy signaled a shift in how LaRue’s department policed the illicit cannabis industry. 

Aquafornia news The Revelator

Author interview: Why we need slow solutions to solve our water problems

What does Slow Water mean? In our attempt to control water we’re often trying to eradicate the slow phases and move it a lot more quickly. We’re putting up levees so that it won’t settle on floodplains. We’re filling in wetlands so that we can build or farm on top of them. We’re cutting down mountain forests that act as water towers, generating water and releasing it slowly. In all of the cases I looked at, the water detectives were trying to give water access to its slow phases again, whether that meant restoring or protecting wetlands, or reclaiming floodplains, or protecting wet meadows, or in a city, creating something like bioswales.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Ag well drilling still under a cloud of confusion from Gov. Newsom’s drought order

Gov. Newsom’s emergency drought order that singled out agricultural wells for extra scrutiny is continuing to cause confusion and angst in some parts of the San Joaquin Valley, while other areas are stutter-stepping forward. Selma raisin farmer Tony Panoo was happy to finally have his well drilled on Monday after several tense weeks when his permit application was stuck between Fresno County and the Central Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA), which covers his 20-acre vineyard.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Daily News

Funding will help seal thousands of abandoned oil wells in Southern California and statewide

California is home to thousands of oil and gas wells abandoned years ago and never  properly sealed — many of them sitting near homes, schools and businesses from the coast to the Inland Empire. With no legally responsible party to clean them up, environmental leaders say that 5,356 abandoned and deserted wells now sprawl across Southern California and the state, polluting drinking water and leaking methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. That is about to change as the state gets millions of dollars in state and federal funding to safely seal old wells.

Aquafornia news KRCR Chico

Butte County working to understand the impacts of the drought

During Tuesday’s Butte County Board of Supervisors Meeting, the board heard from Luhdorff and Scalmanaini Consulting Engineers, who they hired in December 2021 to do a drought impact analyst study. The results found that for agriculture: Areas that utilize surface water in normal years pump more in drought years, as is expected. Total cost of water compared to total cost of production remains low but may increase in the future… 

Aquafornia news KCRA -Sacramento

How farmers can rebuild CA’s groundwater supply through ‘Ag-MAR’

During drought years, California relies heavily on its groundwater supply. As droughts become longer and more intense with climate change, it’s becoming more important than ever to “bank” excess surface water during stormy weather patterns in order to provide some long-term insurance. … [Dr. Helen Dahlke, a hydrology expert at UC Davis] and a team of researchers recently shared findings from their study showing how California’s 8 million acres of farmland could be tapped as one way to help get water back into the ground through a process called ‘Ag-MAR.’

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Aquafornia news KTAR Phoenix

Groundwater pollution may be an overlooked aspect of Arizona water issues

You can’t see it, but how we live impacts it and plays a vital role in almost everything that happens in Arizona. Groundwater is located deep beneath the surface and stored in aquifers, which are porous rock that contain or transport water. About 40% of the state’s water supply is underground, with that number likely to increase due to reductions in available water from the Colorado River. An ongoing concern is what would happen if the valuable resource got contaminated.

Aquafornia news KCRA

DWR aquifer surveys will help bolster groundwater supply

For the past year, California’s Department of Water Resources has been taking measurements of aquifers in central and southern parts of the state. The same will be done for the Sacramento Valley over the next several weeks. This project, which is known as an Airborne Electromagnetic (AEM) Survey, is a direct result of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which calls for local and state water agencies to work together to better understand and manage groundwater supply.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Butte farmers propose new water district

A group of Butte County farmers, who rely solely on groundwater to farm mostly tree crops north of Chico, are one step closer to finalizing formation of a new water district. They say the new district will help future generations comply with a state regulation to bring groundwater supplies into balance in 20 years. … SGMA, signed into law in 2014, establishes a new structure for managing groundwater in California and requires groundwater sustainability agencies to manage groundwater locally and develop and implement plans to achieve long-term sustainability.

Aquafornia news YourCentralValley.com

New technology helps find water underground in California

California is deploying cutting-edge technology that can ‘see’ underground water. A giant electrified ring suspended from a helicopter will make a never-before-seen picture of a world beneath our feet. Wells in the Valley are running dry. Drilling deeper is more expensive and sometimes still fails to find water. When it does, water quality is often worse, containing minerals like arsenic.

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Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

California regulators banned fracking wastewater for irrigation, but allow wastewater from oil drilling. Scientists say there’s little difference

California prohibits farmers from growing crops with chemical-laced wastewater from fracking. Yet the state still allows them to use water produced by conventional oil drilling—a chemical soup that contains many of the same toxic compounds. When rumors spread several years ago that California was growing some of the nation’s nuts, citrus and vegetables with wastewater produced from hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, regulators said that would be illegal.

Aquafornia news Nature

New research: A hybrid machine learning approach for estimating the water-use efficiency and yield in agriculture

Water resources are declining in many regions of the world. Due to climate change, increased air temperatures, and reduced precipitation, we will face a decline in water resources in the future. … Lampinen et al investigated soil and plant data and evapotranspiration for irrigation management of walnut trees in California, USA. Fernandes-Silva, by examining the effect of different irrigation regimes (dryland irrigation with 30% and 100% water requirement) on yield and WUE of olive, reported that crop evapotranspiration (ETc) is the most influential parameter in changes in fruit yield. 

Aquafornia news San Luis Obispo Tribune

Can the Paso Robles wine industry continue to thrive as groundwater levels fall?

New data and reports now show that the Paso Robles groundwater basin is being severely depleted — with unsustainable amounts pumped throughout the entire last decade. As a result, it is now considered a critically overdrafted groundwater basin in need of management to ensure the long-term sustainability of the water source…. Blame for the status of the groundwater basin is tossed around between lack of regulation from local politicians and overpumping from vintners…. But vintners and local industry leaders interviewed by The Tribune said placing the blame on the wine industry is oversimplifying a complicated issue.

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Aquafornia news Brownstein

Blog: Nevada district court strikes down state engineer’s creation of ‘superbasin’

On April 19, 2022, Clark County District Court Judge Bita Yeager issued a decision vacating the Nevada State Engineer’s (State Engineer) June 15, 2020, Order 1309. Under Order 1309, the State Engineer merged seven independently designated hydrographic basins into one basin known as the Lower White River Flow System (LWRFS) to be conjunctively managed. The State Engineer did so based on scientific evidence as to the previously delineated basins’ hydrological connection. 

Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Proposed well water fee for rural residents in Santa Rosa groundwater basin is $20 a year

Rural residents using well water in the sprawling Santa Rosa Plain would pay about $20 a year under a state-mandated program aimed at protecting groundwater for the next 50 years. The 10-member board that governs the agency overseeing Sonoma County’s largest groundwater basin favors a regulatory fee structure based on the estimated amount of water well owners pump from the ground, officials reported at a virtual community meeting Wednesday night.

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Aquafornia news Slate

Emeryville, California, and the challenge of cleaning up poisoned land

In 2004, Emeryville, an industrial suburb of San Francisco, sent an environmental remediation crew to inject 15,000 gallons of cottage cheese into groundwater below an abandoned factory. The factory manufactured car bumpers from 1951 to 1967, and the hexavalent chromium it left behind had since traveled into the groundwater. Hexavalent chromium gives humans cancer, trivalent chromium doesn’t, and cottage cheese converts the former to the latter.

Aquafornia news Random Lengths News

The color of water

Scattered across California’s San Joaquin Valley are colonias, the unincorporated communities home to some of the Valley’s poorest residents in one of the richest agricultural areas in the world. … Water access is a critical question in California. Former Governor Jerry Brown declared an official drought in 2014. The state today is even drier, and the declaration is still in force. Teviston, a tiny community established by African Americans in the 1940s, went completely without water for a month last summer when its only well stopped working.

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Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Two areas in rural Arizona might finally gain protection of their groundwater this year

In the late 1990s, Steven and Lucia Kisiel bought 20 acres of land with a new well in Cochise County, a rural area in southeastern Arizona. The couple built a straw bale house with their own hands and started growing produce for themselves and others in the area. In 2013, Kisiel turned on his kitchen faucet and water sputtered out along with fine sediment, a sign that his well wasn’t pumping enough water.

Aquafornia news ABC30 Fresno

Valley farmers worried as groundwater levels remain low

Throughout western Fresno County, fertile land has been taken out of production because the irrigation supply isn’t stable enough to bring a crop to harvest. Many of Joe Del Bosque’s dry fields in Firebaugh will stay that way this season. … Without adequate surface water delivered from reservoirs, some growers must continue to pump groundwater from their wells. But the California Groundwater Live website shows 64% of monitored wells are below normal.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Associated Press

California gives rivers more room to flow to stem flood risk

Between vast almond orchards and dairy pastures in the heart of California’s farm country sits a property being redesigned to look like it did 150 years ago, before levees restricted the flow of rivers that weave across the landscape. The 2,100 acres (1,100 hectares) at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers in the state’s Central Valley are being reverted to a floodplain. 

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Sonoma County unveils first-ever proposed well water fees under pioneering California groundwater law

In a dramatic shift from California’s history of allowing landowners to freely pump and consume water from their own wells, Sonoma County’s rural residents and many others will soon begin paying for the water drawn from beneath their feet…. The residential fees are based on an assumption that rural residents typically pump a half-acre foot of well water a year. Most homes do not have water meters and none will be installed under the fee program. Large groundwater water users — including ranches, cities, water districts and businesses — would pay fees based on the volume of water drawn from their wells.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news The Desert Sun

East Coachella Valley mobile home parks: arsenic water, sewage pits

Arellano Mobile Home Park … is one of seven east Coachella Valley trailer parks where since November EPA inspectors have found water containing arsenic levels above federal legal limits — even from a faucet equipped with a filter — and thousands of times above state public health guidelines. Low-income residents at the small park and others like it told The Desert Sun they’ve long endured foul-smelling water and have had to buy gallons of clean water for years to try to stay safe. 

Aquafornia news Food & Water Watch

Blog: Ventura County farmers urge passage of measures A and B to protect water resources

Amid the sweeping backdrop of the Topatopa Mountains and a field of colorful organic vegetables, members of the Ventura County farming community joined advocates and water experts to urge the passage of Measures A and B. The twin ballot measures would close a loophole in Ventura County allowing oil and gas companies to drill without environmental review using antiquated permits. In most cases, these permits were granted between 1930 and 1970. Cynthia King’s farm, where the press conference took place, is surrounded by a CUP that was approved in 1928. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Friday Top of the Scroll: Gov. Newsom’s drought order brings ag well activity to a standstill in some areas

Valley groundwater agencies are mired in confusion and concern over Gov. Newsom’s March 28 executive drought order, which added new steps for permitting agricultural wells, according to agencies’ staff.  As groundwater agency managers scramble to hash out exactly how to comply with the order, well permits in some areas are stuck in limbo leaving well drillers and small farmers without answers — or water.

Related articles: 

New EPA Regional Administrator Tackles Water Needs with a Wealth of Experience and $1 Billion in Federal Funding
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Martha Guzman says surge of federal dollars offers 'greatest opportunity' to address longstanding water needs, including for tribes & disadvantaged communities in EPA Region 9

EPA Region 9 Administrator Martha Guzman.Martha Guzman recalls those awful days working on water and other issues as a deputy legislative secretary for then-Gov. Jerry Brown. California was mired in a recession and the state’s finances were deep in the red. Parks were cut, schools were cut, programs were cut to try to balance a troubled state budget in what she remembers as “that terrible time.”

She now finds herself in a strikingly different position: As administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 9, she has a mandate to address water challenges across California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii and $1 billion to help pay for it. It is the kind of funding, she said, that is usually spread out over a decade. Guzman called it the “absolutely greatest opportunity.”

Central Valley Tour 2022
Field Trip - April 20-22

Central Valley Tour participants at a dam.This tour ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2022
Field Trip - March 16-18

The lower Colorado River has virtually every drop allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Tour Nick Gray Jenn Bowles

Northern California Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - October 14

This tour guided participants on a virtual exploration of the Sacramento River and its tributaries and learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Water Rights Law By Gary Pitzer

California Weighs Changes for New Water Rights Permits in Response to a Warmer and Drier Climate
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Water Board report recommends aligning new water rights to an upended hydrology

The American River in Sacramento in 2014 shows the effects of the 2012-2016 drought. Climate change is expected to result in more frequent and intense droughts and floods. As California’s seasons become warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of the state’s water supply.

A report by the State Water Resources Control Board recommends that new water rights permits be tailored to California’s increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable enough to ensure water exists to meet an applicant’s demand. And it warns that the increasingly whiplash nature of California’s changing climate could require existing rights holders to curtail diversions more often and in more watersheds — or open opportunities to grab more water in climate-induced floods.

Western Water By Gary Pitzer

Groundwater Management Requirements Spark Innovative Approaches to Reach Sustainability
A 'Craigslist' for water, flooding farms to feed the aquifer, and turning farmland into habitat to aid wildlife and groundwater

An example of a water-trading platform in Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District in Kern County.

The San Joaquin Valley has a big hill to climb in reaching groundwater sustainability. Driven by the need to keep using water to irrigate the nation’s breadbasket while complying with California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, people throughout the valley are looking for innovative and cost-effective ways to manage and use groundwater more wisely. Here are three examples.

Western Water By Gary Pitzer

Explainer: The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: The Law, The Judge And The Enforcer

The Resource

A groundwater pump in the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater provides about 40 percent of the water in California for urban, rural and agricultural needs in typical years, and as much as 60 percent in dry years when surface water supplies are low. But in many areas of the state, groundwater is being extracted faster than it can be replenished through natural or artificial means.

In the Heart of the San Joaquin Valley, Two Groundwater Sustainability Agencies Try to Find Their Balance
WESTERN WATER SPECIAL REPORT: Agencies in Fresno, Tulare counties pursue different approaches to address overdraft and meet requirements of California’s groundwater law

Flooding permanent crops seasonally, such as this vineyard at Terranova Ranch in Fresno County, is one innovative strategy to recharge aquifers.Across a sprawling corner of southern Tulare County snug against the Sierra Nevada, a bounty of navel oranges, grapes, pistachios, hay and other crops sprout from the loam and clay of the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater helps keep these orchards, vineyards and fields vibrant and supports a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy across the valley. But that bounty has come at a price. Overpumping of groundwater has depleted aquifers, dried up household wells and degraded ecosystems.

Announcement

Water Leaders Alumni: Stay In Touch With Each Other and The Foundation
Join LinkedIn alumni group for networking, program news and more!

Since 1997, more than 430 engineers, farmers, environmentalists, lawyers, and others have graduated from our William R. Gianelli Water Leaders program. We’ve developed a new alumni network webpage to help program participants connect and keep in touch.

Announcement

Join Online Groundwater Short Course Starting May 21st
See our events calendar for details & register today!

An online short course starting Thursday will provide registrants the opportunity to learn more about how groundwater is monitored, assessed and sustainably managed.

The class, offered by UC Davis and several other organizations in cooperation with the Water Education Foundation, will be held May 21 and 28, June 4, 18, and 25 from 9 a.m. to noon.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

With Sustainability Plans Filed, Groundwater Agencies Now Must Figure Out How To Pay For Them
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: California's Prop. 218 taxpayer law and local politics could complicate efforts to finance groundwater improvement projects

A groundwater monitoring well in Colusa County, north of Sacramento. The bill is coming due, literally, to protect and restore groundwater in California.

Local agencies in the most depleted groundwater basins in California spent months putting together plans to show how they will achieve balance in about 20 years.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - May 20

This event explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour. 

Foundation Event

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
Virtual Workshop Occurred Afternoons of April 22-23

Our Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the workshop was held as an engaging online event on the afternoons of Thursday, April 22 and Friday, April 23.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Douglas E. Beeman

Water Resource Innovation, Hard-Earned Lessons and Colorado River Challenges — Western Water Year in Review
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK-Our 2019 articles spanned the gamut from groundwater sustainability and drought resiliency to collaboration and innovation

Smoke from the 2018 Camp Fire as viewed from Lake Oroville in Northern California. Innovative efforts to accelerate restoration of headwater forests and to improve a river for the benefit of both farmers and fish. Hard-earned lessons for water agencies from a string of devastating California wildfires. Efforts to drought-proof a chronically water-short region of California. And a broad debate surrounding how best to address persistent challenges facing the Colorado River. 

These were among the issues Western Water explored in 2019, and are still worth taking a look at in case you missed them.

Foundation Event University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law Jenn Bowles Nick Gray

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond

The Water Education Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop held on Feb. 20, 2020 covered the latest on the most compelling issues in California water. 

McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Announcement

Agenda Posted for Oct. 30 Water Summit; Join the Waitlist!
Keynote speakers include California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot and Scripps Atmospheric River Researcher Marty Ralph

A diverse roster of top policymakers and water experts are on the agenda for the Foundation’s 36th annual Water Summit. The conference, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning, will feature compelling conversations reflecting on upcoming regulatory deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in the face of natural disasters.

Tickets for the Water Summit are sold out, but by joining the waitlist we can let you know when spaces open via cancellations.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Gary Pitzer

Recharging Depleted Aquifers No Easy Task, But It’s Key To California’s Water Supply Future
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: A UC Berkeley symposium explores approaches and challenges to managed aquifer recharge around the West

A water recharge basin in Southern California's Coachella Valley. To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy task.

Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though, landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally recharged.

Announcement

Water Summit Panel to Focus on Nexus of Fire and Water in the Wildland-Urban Interface
Oct. 30 Event Will Feature the Latest on Policy, Planning and Management from Key Stakeholders, Experts

California experienced one of the most deadly and destructive wildfire years on record in 2018, with several major fires occurring in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). These areas, where communities are in close proximity to undeveloped land at high risk of wildfire, have felt devastating effects of these disasters, including direct impacts to water infrastructure and supplies.

One panel at our 2019 Water Summit Oct. 30 in Sacramento will feature speakers from water agencies who came face-to-face with two major fires: The Camp Fire that destroyed most of the town of Paradise in Northern California, and the Woolsey Fire in the Southern California coastal mountains. They’ll talk about their experiences and what lessons they learned. 

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Often Short of Water, California’s Southern Central Coast Builds Toward A Drought-Proof Supply
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Water agencies in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo counties look to seawater, recycled water to protect against water shortages

The spillway at Lake Cachuma in central Santa Barbara County. Drought in 2016 plunged its storage to about 8 percent of capacity.The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.

Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.

Announcement

Scripps Scientist Marty Ralph to Discuss Atmospheric Rivers in Opening Keynote at Water Summit
Early bird pricing ends today for the 2019 Water Summit “Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning"

Oroville Dam spillway emergencyAtmospheric rivers, the narrow bands of moisture that ferry precipitation across the Pacific Ocean to the West Coast, are necessary to keep California’s water reservoirs full.

However, some of them are dangerous because the extreme rainfall and wind can cause catastrophic flooding and damage, much like what happened in 2017 with Oroville Dam’s spillway.

Learn the latest about atmospheric river research and forecasting at our 2019 Water Summit on Oct. 30 in Sacramento, where prominent research meteorologist Marty Ralph will give the opening keynote.

Announcement

Oct. 30 Water Summit to Feature Panel About Key Groundwater Issues as SGMA Deadline Approaches
Attend and learn how water managers are working toward sustainable groundwater management in California

With a key deadline for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in January, one of the featured panels at our Oct. 30th  Water Summit will focus on how regions around California are crafting groundwater sustainability plans and working on innovative ways to fill aquifers.

The theme for this year’s Water Summit, “Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflects critical upcoming events in California water, including the imminent Jan. 31, 2020 deadline for groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) in high- and medium-priority basins.

Announcement

Stay Up To Date With Upcoming Groundwater Events Via Our Calendar
We track relevant tours, symposia, conferences and more for your convenience

Our event calendar is an excellent resource for keeping up with water events in California and the West.

Groundwater is top of mind for many water managers as they prepare to meet next January’s deadline for submitting sustainability plans required under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. We have several upcoming featured events listed on our calendar that focus on a variety of relevant groundwater topics:

Announcement

Registration Now Open for the 36th Annual Water Summit; Take Advantage of Early Bird Discount by Registering Today
Join us Oct. 30 for key conversations on water in California and the West

Registration opens today for the Water Education Foundation’s 36th annual Water Summit, set for Oct. 30 in Sacramento. This year’s theme, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning, reflects fast-approaching deadlines for the State Groundwater Management Act as well as the pressing need for new approaches to water management as California and the West weather intensified flooding, fire and drought. To register for this can’t-miss event, visit our Water Summit event page.

Registration includes a full day of discussions by leading stakeholders and policymakers on key issues, as well as coffee, materials, gourmet lunch and an outdoor reception by the Sacramento River that will offer the opportunity to network with speakers and other attendees. The summit also features a silent auction to benefit our Water Leaders program featuring items up for bid such as kayaking trips, hotel stays and lunches with key people in the water world.

Western Water California Water Map

Your Don’t-Miss Roundup of Summer Reading From Western Water

Dear Western Water reader, 

Clockwise, from top: Lake Powell, on a drought-stressed Colorado River; Subsidence-affected bridge over the Friant-Kern Canal in the San Joaquin Valley;  A homeless camp along the Sacramento River near Old Town Sacramento; Water from a desalination plant in Southern California.Summer is a good time to take a break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting a chance to do plenty of that this July.

But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned for later this year, we want to help you catch up on Western Water stories from the first half of this year that you might have missed. 

Announcement

2019 Water Summit Theme Announced – Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning
Join us October 30 in Sacramento for our premier annual event

Sacramento RiverOur 36th annual Water Summit, happening Oct. 30 in Sacramento, will feature the theme “Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflecting upcoming regulatory deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in the face of natural disasters.

The Summit will feature top policymakers and leading stakeholders providing the latest information and a variety of viewpoints on issues affecting water across California and the West.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

California’s New Natural Resources Secretary Takes on Challenge of Implementing Gov. Newsom’s Ambitious Water Agenda
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Wade Crowfoot addresses Delta tunnel shift, Salton Sea plan and managing water amid a legacy of conflict

Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Secretary.One of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.

That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach” on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

As Deadline Looms for California’s Badly Overdrafted Groundwater Basins, Kern County Seeks a Balance to Keep Farms Thriving
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Sustainability plans required by the state’s groundwater law could cap Kern County pumping, alter what's grown and how land is used

Water sprinklers irrigate a field in the southern region of the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County.Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2020
Field Trip - March 11-13

This tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Silverton Hotel
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Flood Management Gary Pitzer

Southern California Water Providers Think Local in Seeking to Expand Supplies
WESTERN WATER SIDEBAR: Los Angeles and San Diego among agencies pursuing more diverse water portfolio beyond imports

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad last December marked 40 billion gallons of drinking water delivered to San Diego County during its first three years of operation. The desalination plant provides the county with more than 50 million gallons of water each day.Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.

In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)

Western Water Groundwater Education Bundle Gary Pitzer

Imported Water Built Southern California; Now Santa Monica Aims To Wean Itself Off That Supply
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Santa Monica is tapping groundwater, rainwater and tighter consumption rules to bring local supply and demand into balance

The Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF) treats dry weather urban runoff to remove pollutants such as sediment, oil, grease, and pathogens for nonpotable use.Imported water from the Sierra Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on imported water.

Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s, Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.

Key California Ag Region Ponders What’s Next After Voters Spurn Bond to Fix Sinking Friant-Kern Canal
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Subsidence chokes off up to 60% of canal’s capacity to move water to aid San Joaquin Valley farms and depleted groundwater basins

Water is up to the bottom of a bridge crossing the Friant-Kern Canal due to subsidence caused by overpumping of groundwater. The whims of political fate decided in 2018 that state bond money would not be forthcoming to help repair the subsidence-damaged parts of Friant-Kern Canal, the 152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to farms that fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy along the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Douglas E. Beeman

Women Leading in Water, Colorado River Drought and Promising Solutions — Western Water Year in Review

Dear Western Water readers:

Women named in the last year to water leadership roles (clockwise, from top left): Karla Nemeth, director, California Department of Water Resources; Gloria Gray,  chair, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Brenda Burman, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner; Jayne Harkins,  commissioner, International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. and Mexico; Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission.The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.

These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.

We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:

Central Coast Tour 2019
Field Trip - November 6-7

This 2-day, 1-night tour offered participants the opportunity to learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies that have potential applications statewide.

Western Water California Water Map Layperson's Guide to the State Water Project Gary Pitzer

As He Steps Aside, Tim Quinn Talks About ‘Adversarialists,’ Collaboration and Hope For Solving the State’s Tough Water Issues
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Tim Quinn, retiring executive director of Association of California Water Agencies

ACWA Executive Director Tim Quinn  with a report produced by Association of California Water Agencies on  sustainable groundwater management.  (Source:  Association of California Water Agencies)In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.

Western Water Klamath River Watershed Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

California Leans Heavily on its Groundwater, But Will a Court Decision Tip the Scales Against More Pumping?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Pumping near the Scott River in Siskiyou County sparks appellate court ruling extending public trust doctrine to groundwater connected to rivers

Scott River, in Siskiyou County. In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.

Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
One-day workshop included optional groundwater tour

One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop details the history, geography, legal and political facets of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the state.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural resources.

 Optional Groundwater Tour

On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater experts Thomas Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Douglas E. Beeman

What Would You Do About Water If You Were California’s Next Governor?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Survey at Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit elicits a long and wide-ranging potential to-do list

There’s going to be a new governor in California next year – and a host of challenges both old and new involving the state’s most vital natural resource, water.

So what should be the next governor’s water priorities?

That was one of the questions put to more than 150 participants during a wrap-up session at the end of the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Vexed by Salt And Nitrates In Central Valley Groundwater, Regulators Turn To Unusual Coalition For Solutions
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Left unaddressed, salts and nitrates could render farmland unsuitable for crops and family well water undrinkable

An evaporation pond in Kings County, in the central San Joaquin Valley, with salt encrusted on the soil. More than a decade in the making, an ambitious plan to deal with the vexing problem of salt and nitrates in the soils that seep into key groundwater basins of the Central Valley is moving toward implementation. But its authors are not who you might expect.

An unusual collaboration of agricultural interests, cities, water agencies and environmental justice advocates collaborated for years to find common ground to address a set of problems that have rendered family wells undrinkable and some soil virtually unusable for farming.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Could the Arizona Desert Offer California and the West a Guide to Solving Groundwater Problems?
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Environmental Defense Fund report highlights strategies from Phoenix and elsewhere for managing demands on groundwater

Skyline of Phoenix, ArizonaAs California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of overdraft.

Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California, awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in about 20 years.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Novel Effort to Aid Groundwater on California’s Central Coast Could Help Other Depleted Basins
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Michael Kiparsky, director of UC Berkeley's Wheeler Water Institute, explains Pajaro Valley groundwater recharge pilot project

Michael KiparskySpurred by drought and a major policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of recovery.

Along the way, an army of experts has been enlisted to help characterize the extent of the problem and how the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 is implemented in a manner that reflects its original intent.

Tour

Lower Colorado River Tour 2018

Lower Colorado River Tour participants at Hoover Dam.

We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Western Water California Water Bundle Gary Pitzer

Statewide Water Bond Measures Could Have Californians Doing a Double-Take in 2018
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Two bond measures, worth $13B, would aid flood preparation, subsidence, Salton Sea and other water needs

San Joaquin Valley bridge rippled by subsidence  California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.

Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2019

This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119

Northern California Tour 2018

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the Oroville Dam spillway. 

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Groundwater Replenishment

Groundwater replenishment happens through direct recharge and in-lieu recharge. Water used for direct recharge most often comes from flood flows, water conservation, recycled water, desalination and water transfers.

Western Water Excerpt Jenn Bowles

Enhancing California’s Water Supply: The Drive for New Storage
Spring 2017

One of the wettest years in California history that ended a record five-year drought has rejuvenated the call for new storage to be built above and below ground.

In a state that depends on large surface water reservoirs to help store water before moving it hundreds of miles to where it is used, a wet year after a long drought has some people yearning for a place to sock away some of those flood flows for when they are needed.

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Runoff

Snowmelt and runoff near the California Department of Water Resources snow survey site in the Sierra Nevada east of Sacramento.Runoff is the water that is pulled by gravity across land’s surface, replenishing groundwater and surface water as it percolates into an aquifer or moves into a river, stream or watershed.

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Sinkholes

Sinkholes are caused by erosion of rocks beneath soil’s surface. Groundwater dissolves soft rocks such as gypsum, salt and limestone, leaving gaps in the originally solid structure. This is exacerbated when water is acidic from contact with carbon dioxide or acid rain. Even humidity can play a major role in destabilizing water underground. 

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Irrigation

Irrigation is the artificial supply of water to grow crops or plants. Obtained from either surface or groundwater, it optimizes agricultural production when the amount of rain and where it falls is insufficient. Different irrigation systems are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but in practical use are often combined. Much of the agriculture in California and the West relies on irrigation. 

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Freshwater

The United States Geographical Survey (USGS) defines freshwater as containing less than 1,000 milligrams per liter dissolved solids. However, 500 milligrams per liter is usually the cutoff for municipal and commercial use. Most of the Earth’s water is saline, 97.5 percent with only 2.5 percent fresh.

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Springs

Springs are where groundwater becomes surface water, acting as openings where subsurface water can discharge onto the ground or directly into other water bodies. They can also be considered the consequence of an overflowing aquifer. As a result, springs often serve as headwaters to streams.

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Potable Water

Photo of drinking water filling a glass over the kitchen sink. Potable water, also known as drinking water, comes from surface and ground sources and is treated to levels that that meet state and federal standards for consumption.

Water from natural sources is treated for microorganisms, bacteria, toxic chemicals, viruses and fecal matter. Drinking raw, untreated water can cause gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, vomiting or fever.

Announcement

Discover Hidden World of Subsidence on Upcoming Groundwater Tour
Early bird discount expires Tuesday

Extensometers are among the most valuable devices hydrogeologists use to measure subsidence, but most people – even water professionals – have never seen one. They are sensitive and carefully calibrated, so they are kept under lock and key and are often in remote locations on private property.

During our California Groundwater Tour Oct. 5-6, you will see two types of extensometers used by the California Department of Water Resources to monitor changes in elevation caused by groundwater overdraft.

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Mojave River

Flowing into the heart of the Mojave Desert, the Mojave River exists mostly underground. Surface channels are usually dry absent occasional groundwater surfacing and flooding from extreme weather events like El Niño

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Alluvium

Alluvium generally refers to the clay, silt, sand and gravel that are deposited by a stream, creek or other water body.  Alluvium is found around deltas and rivers, frequently making soils very fertile. Alternatively, “colluvium” refers to the accumulation at the base of hills, brought there from runoff (as opposed to a water body). The Oxnard Plain in Ventura County is a visible alluvial plain, where floodplains have drifted over time due to gradual deposits of alluvium, a feature also present in Red Rock Canyon State Park in Kern County.

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)

A man watches as a groundwater pump pours water onto a field in Northern California.A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which aims for local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.

SGMA defines “sustainable groundwater management” as the “management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.”

Western Water Magazine

The View From Above: The Promise of Remote Sensing
March/April 2015

This issue looks at remote sensing applications and how satellite information enables analysts to get a better understanding of snowpack, how much water a plant actually uses, groundwater levels, levee stability and more.

Publication

The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
A Handbook to Understanding and Implementing the Law

This handbook provides crucial background information on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, signed into law in 2014 by Gov. Jerry Brown. The handbook also includes a section on options for new governance.

Tour

Southern California Tour 2015
Field Trip (past)

Diamond Valley Lake. Photo by MWD

This 2-day, 1-night tour traveled through Inland Southern California to learn about the region’s efforts in groundwater management, recycled water and other drought-proofing measures.

Tour

Groundwater Tour 2015
Field Trip (past)

This 2-day, 1-night tour traveled from the Sacramento region to Napa Valley to view sites that explore groundwater issues. Topics  included groundwater quality, overdraft and subsidence, agricultural use, wells, and regional management efforts.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater
Updated 2017

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background and perspective on groundwater. The guide explains what groundwater is – not an underground network of rivers and lakes! – and the history of its use in California.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law
Updated 2020

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law, recognized as the most thorough explanation of California water rights law available to non-lawyers, traces the authority for water flowing in a stream or reservoir, from a faucet or into an irrigation ditch through the complex web of California water rights.

Western Water Magazine

Overdrawn at the Bank: Managing California’s Groundwater
January/February 2014

This printed issue of Western Water looks at California groundwater and whether its sustainability can be assured by local, regional and state management. For more background information on groundwater please refer to the Founda­tion’s Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater.

Western Water Magazine

Nitrate and the Struggle for Clean Drinking Water
March/April 2013

This printed issue of Western Water discusses the problems of nitrate-contaminated water in small disadvantaged communities and possible solutions.

Western Water Magazine

Preserving Quantity and Quality: Groundwater Management in California
May/June 2011

This printed issue of Western Water examines groundwater management and the extent to which stakeholders believe more efforts are needed to preserve and restore the resource.

Publication

Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - Paperback

The story of water is the story of California. And no book tells that story better than Water & the Shaping of California.

Publication

Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - hardbound

The story of California is the story of water. And no book tells that story better than Water & the Shaping of California.

Western Water Magazine

Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Quality: A Cause for Concern?
September/October 2012

This printed issue of Western Water looks at hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in California. Much of the information in the article was presented at a conference hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association of California.

Publication

New Director’s Packet

Newly elected to your local water board? Or city council? Or state Legislature? This packet of materials provides you with the valuable background information you need – and at a special price!

Western Water Magazine

Saving it For Later: Groundwater Banking
July/August 2010

This printed issue of Western Water examines groundwater banking, a water management strategy with appreciable benefits but not without challenges and controversy.

Western Water Magazine

Viewing Water with a Wide Angle Lens: A Roundtable Discussion
January/February 2013

This printed issue of Western Water features a roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Western Water Magazine

Changing the Status Quo: The 2009 Water Package
January/February 2010

This printed issue of Western Water looks at some of the pieces of the 2009 water legislation, including the Delta Stewardship Council, the new requirements for groundwater monitoring and the proposed water bond.

Western Water Magazine

Desalination: A Drought Proof Supply?
July/August 2009

This printed issue of Western Water examines desalination – an issue that is marked by great optimism and controversy – and the expected role it might play as an alternative water supply strategy.

Western Water Magazine

A Tale of Two Rivers: The Russian and the Santa Ana
May/June 2009

This printed issue of Western Water examines the Russian and Santa Ana rivers – areas with ongoing issues not dissimilar to the rest of the state – managing supplies within a lingering drought, improving water quality and revitalizing and restoring the vestiges of the native past.

Western Water Magazine

Dealing with the ‘D’ Word: The Response to Drought
November/December 2008

This printed copy of Western Water examines California’s drought – its impact on water users in the urban and agricultural sector and the steps being taken to prepare for another dry year should it arrive.

Western Water Magazine

An Expanded Role for Groundwater Storage
September/October 2007

Statewide, groundwater provides about 30 percent of California’s water supply, with some regions more dependent on it than others. In drier years, groundwater provides a higher percentage of the water supply. Groundwater is less known than surface water but no less important. Its potential for helping to meet the state’s growing water demand has spurred greater attention toward gaining a better understanding of its overall value. This issue of Western Water examines groundwater storage and its increasing importance in California’s future water policy.

Western Water Magazine

California Groundwater: Managing A Hidden Resource
July/August 2003

This issue of Western Water examines the issue of California groundwater management, in light of recent attention focused on the subject through legislative actions and the release of the draft Bulletin 118. In addition to providing an overview of groundwater and management options, it offers a glimpse of what the future may hold and some background information on groundwater hydrology and law.

Video

A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.

Video

Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource

20-minute DVD that explains the problem with polluted stormwater, and steps that can be taken to help prevent such pollution and turn what is often viewed as a “nuisance” into a water resource through various activities.

Video

Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (60-minute DVD)

Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from, how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress Wendie Malick. 

Video

Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (30-minute DVD)

A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state.

Video

Water on the Edge (60-minute DVD)

Water truly has shaped California into the great state it is today. And if it is water that made California great, it’s the fight over – and with – water that also makes it so critically important. In efforts to remap California’s circulatory system, there have been some critical events that had a profound impact on California’s water history. These turning points not only forced a re-evaluation of water, but continue to impact the lives of every Californian. This 2005 PBS documentary offers a historical and current look at the major water issues that shaped the state we know today. Includes a 12-page viewer’s guide with background information, historic timeline and a teacher’s lesson.

Product

Go With the Flow: A Storm Water Pollution Prevention Message

This 7-minute DVD is designed to teach children in grades 5-12 about where storm water goes – and why it is so important to clean up trash, use pesticides and fertilizers wisely, and prevent other chemicals from going down the storm drain. The video’s teenage actors explain the water cycle and the difference between sewer drains and storm drains, how storm drain water is not treated prior to running into a river or other waterway. The teens also offer a list of BMPs – best management practices that homeowners can do to prevent storm water pollution.

Maps & Posters Groundwater Education Bundle

California Groundwater Map
Redesigned in 2017

California Groundwater poster map

Fashioned after the popular California Water Map, this 24×36 inch poster was extensively re-designed in 2017 to better illustrate the value and use of groundwater in California, the main types of aquifers, and the connection between groundwater and surface water.

Maps & Posters

Water Cycle Poster

Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants, rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation. Excellent for elementary school classroom use.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Water Recycling
Updated 2013

As the state’s population continues to grow and traditional water supplies grow tighter, there is increased interest in reusing treated wastewater for a variety of activities, including irrigation of crops, parks and golf courses, groundwater recharge and industrial uses.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing
Updated 2005

The 20-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing provides background information on water rights, types of transfers and critical policy issues surrounding this topic. First published in 1996, the 2005 version offers expanded information on groundwater banking and conjunctive use, Colorado River transfers and the role of private companies in California’s developing water market. 

Order in bulk (25 or more copies of the same guide) for a reduced fee. Contact the Foundation, 916-444-6240, for details.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project
Updated 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project provides an overview of the California-funded and constructed State Water Project.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management
Published 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background information on the principles of IRWM, its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water management approach.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to California Water
Updated 2021

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of water development and use in California. It includes sections on flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as water marketing and conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of the guide is a section on the human need for water. 

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water
Published 2006

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water provides an overview of the history of water development and use in Nevada. It includes sections on Nevada’s water rights laws, the history of the Truckee and Carson rivers, water supplies for the Las Vegas area, groundwater, water quality, environmental issues and today’s water supply challenges.

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Seawater Intrusion

Seawater intrusion can harm groundwater quality in a variety of places, both coastal and inland, throughout California.

Along the coast, seawater intrusion into aquifers is connected to overdrafting of groundwater. Additionally, in the interior, groundwater pumping can draw up salty water from ancient seawater isolated in subsurface sediments.

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Pollutants and Groundwater

Pollutants and Groundwater

The natural quality of groundwater in California depends on the surrounding geology and on the source of water that recharges the aquifer.

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Overdraft

Overdraft occurs when, over a period of years, more water is pumped from a groundwater basin than is replaced from all sources – such as rainfall, irrigation water, streams fed by mountain runoff and intentional recharge. [See also Hydrologic Cycle.]

While many of its individual aquifers are not overdrafted, California as a whole uses more groundwater than is replaced.

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Groundwater Treatment

The treatment of groundwater— the primary source of drinking water and irrigation water in many parts of the United States — varies from community to community, and even from well to well within a city depending on what contaminants the water contains.

In California, one-half of the state’s population drinks water drawn from underground sources [the remainder is provided by surface water].

Groundwater Management

Groundwater pump in California's Central ValleyGroundwater management is recognized as critical to supporting the long-term viability of California’s aquifers and protecting the nearby surface waters that are connected to groundwater.

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Groundwater Legislation

California has considered, but not implemented, a comprehensive groundwater strategy many times over the last century.

One hundred years ago, the California Conservation Commission considered adding  groundwater regulation into the Water Commission Act of 1913.  After hearings were held, it was decided to leave groundwater rights out of the Water Code.

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Groundwater Law

California, like most arid Western states, has a complex system of surface water rights that accounts for nearly all of the water in rivers and streams.

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Groundwater Banking

An aerial view of a groundwater bank

Groundwater banking is a process of diverting floodwaters or other surface water into an aquifer where it can be stored until it is needed later. In a twist of fate, the space made available by emptying some aquifers opened the door for the banking activities used so extensively today.

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Groundwater Adjudication

When multiple parties withdraw water from the same aquifer, groundwater pumpers can ask the court to adjudicate, or hear arguments for and against, to better define the rights that various entities have to use groundwater resources. This is known as  groundwater adjudication. [See also California water rights and Groundwater Law.]

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Groundwater

Groundwater pump in a Northern California farm field.

California’s enormous cache of underground water is a great natural resource and has contributed to the state becoming the nation’s top agricultural producer and leader in high-tech industries.

Groundwater is also increasingly relied upon by growing cities and thirsty farms, and it plays an important role in the future sustainability of California’s overall water supply.

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Conjunctive Use

Conjunctive use is a catch-phrase for coordinated use of surface water and groundwater— literally going with the flow to maximize sufficient yield.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Preserving Quantity and Quality: Groundwater Management in California
May/June 2011

For something so largely hidden from view, groundwater is an important and controversial part of California’s water supply picture. How it should be managed and whether it becomes part of overarching state regulation is a topic of strong debate.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Saving it For Later: Groundwater Banking
July/August 2010

In early June, environmentalists and Delta water agencies sued the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Kern County Water Agency (KCWA) over the validity of the transfer of the Kern Water Bank, a huge underground reservoir that supplies water to farms and cities locally and outside the area. The suit, which culminates a decade-long controversy involving multiple issues of state and local jurisdictional authority, has put the spotlight on groundwater banking – an important but controversial water management practice in many areas of California.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

An Expanded Role for Groundwater Storage
September/October 2007

Groundwater, out of sight and out of mind to most people, is taking on an increased role in California’s water future.

Often overlooked and misunderstood, groundwater’s profile is being elevated as various scenarios combine to cloud the water supply outlook. A dry 2006-2007 water year (downtown Los Angeles received a record low amount of rain), crisis conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the mounting evidence of climate change have invigorated efforts to further utilize aquifers as a reliable source of water supply.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

California Groundwater: Managing A Hidden Resource
Jul/Aug 2003

When you drink the water, remember the spring. – Chinese proverb

Water is everywhere. Viewed from outer space, the Earth radiates a blue glow from the oceans that dominate its surface. Atop the sea and land, huge clouds of water vapor swirl around the globe, propelling the weather system that sustains life. Along the way, water, which an ancient sage called “the noblest of elements,” transforms from vapor to liquid and to solid form as it falls from the atmosphere to the surface, trickles below ground and ultimately returns skyward.

Western Water Excerpt Sue McClurgRita Schmidt Sudman

Conjunctive Use: Banking for a Dry Day
July/Aug 2001

Traditionally treated as two separate resources, surface water and groundwater are increasingly linked in California as water leaders search for a way to close the gap between water demand and water supply. Although some water districts have coordinated use of surface water and groundwater for years, conjunctive use has become the catchphrase when it comes to developing additional water supply for the 21st century.